LinkedIn: Musings on $LNKD

On LinkedIn’s Q1 earnings call yesterday, the firm boasted that their Sales Solutions products grew revenue 55% year-over-year with sales products now constituting 40% of Premium Subscription divisional revenues.  Thus, LinkedIn Sales Navigator revenues were around $60 million last quarter.  This is an impressive number given the short period of time the product has been available.  It also suggests that Sales Navigator is by far the largest Sales Intelligence product on the market.

The funny thing is, when I talk to other vendors in the Sales Intelligence space, LinkedIn remains low on their competitive threat list.  They simply aren’t seeing them much as competitors.  Perhaps their customers are licensing both Sales Navigator and their solutions, but I’m not sure about that.  Doing so would be an expensive proposition.

This is a square I have yet to circle.

LinkedIn, which laid an egg last quarter after announcing much more conservative guidance than the analysts expected, raised its full year guidance by two percentage points and had beats on earnings and revenue.  The market obviously overreacted to its lower than expected FY 2016 revenue guidance on the Q4 call, but LinkedIn generally guides low.  The problem with hyper-growth stocks is the moment the growth trajectory slows, the expected revenues and future cash flows decline by a compounded factor.  Thus, several years of stock price growth can be wiped out overnight.  There is a reason analysts often say these stocks are “priced to perfection.”

LinkedIn announced a set of small-ball enhancements to its Sales Navigator service in Q1.  The firm mentioned some improvements to their CRM connectors on the earnings call, but didn’t provide any details.  There were some non-discussed features that were covered on a SlideShare presentation a few days ago.

The best new Sales Navigator feature is a set of Spotlight filters for prospecting.  These LinkedIn-specific filters appear at the top of the results page.  Navigator users can now screen for executives and managers who have

  • Shared experiences (e.g. groups, education, companies, etc.) with the sales rep
  • Changed jobs (company or title) in the past ninety days
  • Posted on LinkedIn in the past thirty days
Sales Navigator's new Spotlight filters leverage member intelligence to identify contacts more likely to respond to your InMail.
Sales Navigator’s new Spotlight filters leverage member intelligence to identify contacts more likely to respond to your InMail.

These Spotlight filters help identify individuals who are more likely to respond to InMails due to similar affinities, job changes, or active LinkedIn participation.  Spotlight filters, like TeamLink, are a good example of the firm leveraging its unique content sets to provide value added Solution Selling features instead of taking a me-too approach.

LinkedIn added five other new filters to their side panel of selects including “Leads that Follow Your Company on LinkedIn.”  This filter lends itself to strong messaging concerning displayed interest in your company (e.g. “I see that you follow us on LinkedIn.  How did you hear about us?”).

The other new filters are “Exclude my Saved Leads,” “Years in Current Position,” “Years at Current Company,” and “Company Type” (e.g. Private, Public, Partnership, Educational, Nonprofit, Government Agency, Self-Owned, and Self-Employed).

Other enhancements include multi-ZIP screening, notifying the user when a lead views his or her profile, and shifting Navigator accounts to different contracts.  All of these are welcome feature additions, but small-ball upgrades unlikely to grow the business.

Navigator added an update message that flags leads who have recently viewed user profiles.
Navigator added an update message that flags leads who have recently viewed your profile.

And contract shifting is potentially problematic.  If a sales rep joins a company, the firm can invoice the employer instead of the rep (good).  However, if a rep leaves the firm, he or she can assume the contract for their account (potentially very bad).  Thus, a sales rep can maintain a digital rolodex of leads and customers within Sales Navigator and take it to his or her next employer.  The sales rep would be delighted by this opportunity, but the former employer is potentially making it easier for a rep to walk across the street to a competitor with their book of business.

ABM: The Art of the Start (Avention)

This morning, sales and marketing intelligence vendor Avention unveiled a survey and set of recommendations on implementing Account Based Marketing strategies.  ABM is quickly moving from a buzzword to an actionable strategy for strategically targeting your best customers and prospects.  If you are considering an ABM strategy or researching how to move forward with ABM, Avention’s “Account-Based Marketing: The Art of the Start – Leveraging a Strong Data Foundation to Fuel ABM Success” guide is now available.

The Avention Survey of over 100 top level B2B executives (e.g. CEO, CMO, VP of Sales) found that ABM strategies require “careful data-driven planning, execution and monitoring.”  Furthermore, the lack of data access and quality are “fundamental impediments” that need to be resolved for ABM strategies to succeed.

ABM is based upon strategic targeting of your best accounts and similar companies.  If your underlying data is poor you will have problems with best customer cloning, account messaging, and drilling deeper into organizations for cross-sell and upsell.  Furthermore, “once a program is started, it is essential that account and market news and events be monitored to ensure programs remain relevant.”

Todd Berkowitz, research vice president for Gartner1 wrote in a January report, “By getting a better view of customer data, creating predictive models, employing account-based marketing, and creating internal and external-facing content specifically for existing customers, even marketing leaders from smaller providers can increase the likelihood of success.”

90% of the surveyed B2B execs believe that ABM is relevant to their organization and 86% are confident that ABM will drive growth; however, 75% are having trouble finding the appropriate contacts for selling deeper into target organizations, and more than fifty percent of B2B marketers lack an ability to monitor and adjust programs directed towards ABM accounts due to a lack of real-time intelligence.

AV ABM Survey
ABM Survey of B2B Executives republished with permission from Avention.

Avention noted that ABM is a long-term strategy that requires continuously updated account and contact intelligence if campaigns are to remain relevant.  For example, messages and offers may need to be adjusted due to key events such as executive changes.

Avention CEO Steve Pogorzelski summarized the ABM implementation problems found in the survey:

Almost two-thirds of the marketers responding to our survey report not having access to a single source of truth for customer data.  This obviously impedes starting an ABM program and running it to successful conclusion, as such programs demand access to accurate and continually updated market and account data.  ABM offers enterprises the opportunity to quickly fuel their customer acquisition, growth and retention strategies.

Pogorzelski noted that Avention provides three capabilities which support sales, marketing, and sales operations ABM responsibilities:

  • Marketing: “Consolidation and visualization of in-house customer data for sophisticated segmentation.” (For more on these capabilities, see my February blog on the launch of their DataVision platform).
  • Sales: Strategic intelligence concerning companies and contacts along with predictive indicators.
  • Sales Operations: CRM and Marketing Automation ecosystem connectivity.

Finally, I would note that traditional approaches to marketing data quality which involve annual data cleanses are insufficient to meet ABM and predictive marketing needs.  Marketing data, particularly contacts, ages quickly.  The lack of a continuous data quality strategy will result in a drop-off in sales and marketing productivity as contact and company data decays.

1 Gartner, Tech-Go-to-Market: Four Ways Marketers can Generate Demand with Existing Accounts, January 29, 2016

Full Disclosure: I broadly advise companies across the sales intelligence space including Avention.  While I periodically write commissioned blogs for Avention, none of my commentary on my own blog or social media accounts is commissioned.

Account Based Sales Development

Yesterday, I posted a blog on Avention’s website concerning Account Based Sales Development which discusses how sales development is being converted to a knowledge-based function:

Account Based Sales Development (ABSD) is the latest twist on Account Based Marketing (ABM).  ABSD takes account targeting down to the sales development role and shifts sales development staff away from smile-and-dial cold calling across many weak prospects to a targeted focus on your best candidates.  As such, it raises the knowledge level and professionalism of Sales Development Reps (SDRs).  With ABSD, SDRs are no longer tied to a script.

Traditional sales development was often relegated to inexperienced sales reps or specialists that excelled in cold calling and appointment setting.  The success rate was low so sales development reps needed thick skins and persistence.

But ABSD begins with the premise that the sales development goal is not to call across as many prospects as possible, but to deeply penetrate your best prospects.  As such, the cost of researching best prospects is shared across many calls, making it affordable to amortize the research across many calls into the same target account.  Thus, “strategic focus allows the rep to allocate the front-end research effort across many touchpoints.  Furthermore, by targeting best fit accounts with customized messaging, the likelihood of garnering a response is significantly higher.”

The Avention Company Profile provides a quick overview of the company (e.g. location, firmographics, business description), social media links, an Ideal Profile Score, family trees, execs, news, sales triggers, SWOTs and additional insights to support informed calls into ABSD targets.
The Avention Company Profile provides a quick overview of the company (e.g. location, firmographics, business description), social media links, an Ideal Profile Score, family trees, execs, news, sales triggers, SWOTs, technology profiles, and additional insights to support informed calls into ABSD targets.

The number of B2B information services firms now messaging around ABM and ABSD is astonishing.  Two years ago, programmatic marketing firm DemandBase was the only voice discussing this strategy.  Now you will find it is a method being discussed by marketing automation, predictive analytics, and sales intelligence firms.  There is even a new set of firms focused on ABSD as a product offering including SalesLoft, QuotaFactory, and KiteDesk.  While Sales Genie and Colabo haven’t picked up the banner of ABSD as yet, they have products that also support this approach. Price Reduction & Product Line Simplification

The Corporate Hierarchy Viewer displays the Dun & Bradstreet family tree. Users can add any location as an account. The tree also shows sizing variables and SFDC account owners.
The Corporate Hierarchy Viewer displays the Dun & Bradstreet family tree. Users can add any location as an account. The tree also shows sizing variables and SFDC account owners. has simplified its pricing from two tiers to a single tier for both its sales intelligence Prospector service and its data hygiene Clean offering.   All Prospector users now receive the full Dun & Bradstreet WorldBase record for $150 per seat per month.  The full Dun & Bradstreet file was previously priced at $165 per seat per month as part of the Premium offering.  Corporate users will see the price rise from $125 to $150 but will receive the following additional content and capabilities due to the product unification:

  • Corporate family linkages with domestic and global ultimate parents
  • Corporate family hierarchy viewer
  • Up to six total SIC/NAICS industry classification codes
  • Account tradestyle (Doing Business As)
  • Account delinquency risk (High/Medium/Low)
  • Account latitude and longitude
  • Hoover’s First Research call prep content for imported and matched company records
  • Additional Hoover’s data/content, including Net Income, Industry Opportunities and Competitive Landscape

Users are still limited to 300 uploaded or downloaded records per user per month.  Additional records are priced at $0.65 per record, unchanged from the previous premium offering. counts both company and contact records towards the monthly limit.  Additional download record credits are not subject to monthly usage limits and may be allocated to Prospector accounts at the Salesforce Administrator’s discretion.

The Clean service price is now $25 per user per month for all users in the instance.  All Clean users now receive the full WorldBase file.  By standardizing clean to a single edition, has reduced the price of Clean Premium from $35 to $25.

Simplifying the product bundles makes sense.  For premium users, there is a small price cut while there is a price rise for corporate users of Prospector but not Clean.  As a premium to Salesforce, having two editions probably complicated sales discussions unnecessarily.

Lowering the price of Clean also makes sense as higher data quality raises the overall value of the CRM for sales, marketing, and support.  Marketing enjoys better segmentation and targeting while sales benefits from improved company intelligence for qualification and fewer misrouted leads.  Sales and support also benefit from the better population of contact information (e.g. direct dials, phones) and flags when an individual is no longer affiliated with the account.

While the price reduction makes Prospector more competitive with other Sales Intelligence solutions, Prospector remains at the upper end of the market.  For example, InsideView for CRM is priced at $995 per annum, 44% below the price of Prospector.

Putting Lipstick on a Pig

The task of software product developers has become increasingly difficult.  It used to be that marketing could “put lipstick on a pig” and sell a poorly designed product based upon futures, a few cool features, and a high ROI claim.  But increasing competition and higher user expectations make dressing up a weak product more difficult for several reasons:

  1. Buyers do much of their research upfront, so marketers and sales no longer control the narrative.  Purchasers are now able to frame their requirements and conduct much of their basic research before raising their hands.
  2. Review sites such as (FKA G2 Crowd), TrustRadius, and PeerSpot provide input on what users like and dislike about software products.  If there is a disconnect between promises and reality, these problems will be surfaced.  If there are connectivity, performance, or scaling issues, these will also be flagged. (Warning: be wary of reviews that are manufactured by vendor campaigns.  Look at the review dates and note if reviews are tightly bunched in time or if a small vendor has several-fold more reviews than its larger competitors.  These reviews are often derived by campaigns, some with rewards, for reviews.)
  3. We’ve all come to appreciate great design thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple.  Most of us are not experts in what makes for great design, but we are much better at identifying poor design, balky workflows, and ugly interfaces.
  4. Services must integrate with each other.  It is no longer possible to build a product that only weakly integrates with key vendors.  Simply providing a download CSV for enterprise software platforms is unacceptable to admins.  The AppExchange has thousands of vendors on it.  In SalesTech and Martech, it is expected that your service integrates with Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Adobe/Marketo, and Eloqua/Oracle.  Other common integrations are Chrome Connectors, Hubspot, Gmail, Exchange, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator (SNAP).  We are already seeing Sales Engagement vendors such as SalesLoft and build their own partner ecosystems.
  5. Competition is fierce.  In the Marketing Technology space, Scott Brinker identified approximately 3,500 Martech vendors in his 2016 graphic, up 87% over 2015.  By 2019, the vendor count had doubled to 7,040. That is a large gaggle of voices calling for attention.
"Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2016)" courtesy of Scott Brinker and Chiefmartec.
“Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2016)” courtesy of Scott Brinker and Chiefmartec.

Products rarely succeed if they are backed by poor marketing.  But is increasingly difficult for poor products to gain traction by marketing alone.  Firms now must tie strong marketing to strong design and an unmet user need.  A company like SalesLoft identified an underserved market (Sales Development professionals) and gave them “sincerity at scale.”  Likewise, DemandBase was talking about Account Based Marketing for years (and supporting it with their programmatic marketing platform) before other vendors recognized the value of targeting your best clients and prospects.

In a blog, Gartner Research VP Jake Sorofman warned marketers:

When your value proposition, use cases and features are all in perfect harmony with a high-value need, customers take notice. You’ve won their minds. When the user experience doesn’t just fulfill these use cases, but does so with artful simplicity and deep respect for the user, you’ve won their hearts, too.

When I’m evaluating which products to profile, a poor UI is a red flag.  I’m also wary of profiling products that lack an integration story, have typos on their website, push marketing puffery into bald-faced lies, or whose pitches suffer from featuritis.

So be wary of the firms that sell features over value, that promise ROI with gauzy claims of indirect benefits, or that fail to understand the underlying needs of their customers.  A pig with lipstick is still just a pig.

InsideView: Refreshing its SFDC Connector

IV Refresh

Refresh, InsideView’s Salesforce enrichment service, exited beta and is now generally available to customers.  Their AppExchange service provides automatic, continuous updates to CRM records “so that marketers and sellers can improve their response rates, get more qualified leads, and win more deals.”

The service updates incorrect information, appends missing fields, and provides duplicate management.  To ensure administrative control, Refresh supports a “rule-based system with overrides.”  Up to 40 fields are refreshed.  Admins may also setup custom fields for enrichment.  Salesforce Admins set the frequency to daily, weekly, or monthly.

One of the initial features is the ability to segment your database with different enrichment rules and update frequencies.  Accounts can only be assigned to a single segment with a maximum of five segments.  Outside of segmenting by international region or corporate divisions, I’m not sure why sales operations would set different rules for different accounts.  It seems like a way to overly complicate data hygiene management.

The system provides admins two sets of alerts: the first notifies that matching has completed, and the second provides enrichment counts by fields.

InsideView Refresh email alerts notify the SFDC Admin that updates are pending approval.
InsideView Refresh email alerts notify the SFDC Admin that updates are pending approval.

Match scores are employed with a score of 100 assigned to any manually matched records (either by the admin or sales rep).  Scores at or above 70 are viewed as auto-matched and enriched.  Scores of 31 to 69 are available for review but not automatically enriched.

Subscription hygiene services provide broad-based benefits across multiple functions and workflows.  In their product video, InsideView states that if companies don’t clean their marketing databases “it can severely choke your revenue operations.  Poor data quality leads to lost productivity and lower revenue.  For sales, it means wasted time and lost opportunities; for marketing, it means lower response rates and a shrinking pipeline; and for business operations, it means you’re on the hook to clean up the mess.  You can’t afford to ignore the problem, yet most businesses aren’t prepared to address the complexity of their data and systems.”

The InsideView database currently spans 12 million prospectable companies and 30 million contacts.  Company data is licensed from Equifax, Business Week (Capital IQ), Cortera, and Reuters.  Additional contact data appears to be mined from the web though they are unclear about the sourcing now that NetProspex no longer provides contacts.  They also offer a set of Community records which were “added or last updated using data that has been shared by InsideView users.”  These contacts are verified by content editors.

The new service puts InsideView directly in competition with Salesforce’s Clean native offering for ongoing match and append. has an advantage in company coverage as it offers the Dun & Bradstreet global WorldBase file.  With respect to contacts, InsideView offers fewer US contacts and emails but a broader set of international contacts.  Neither service supports hygiene features such as email verification, address standardization, phone validation, or duplicate merge / purge (both have duplicate detection during record entry).  Each claims standardization, but that is for records that are being enriched.

Both services also offer sales products ( Prospector and InsideView for CRM), with InsideView having a clear advantage in several key sales intelligence categories (e.g. sales triggers, bios, social media “buzz”, a who knows who tool).  The exception for sales intelligence is with respect to family trees (Dun & Bradstreet linkage is much deeper than Capital IQ linkage in InsideView) and industry content where InsideView offers thin overviews while now displays First Research industry overviews spanning 1,000 industries.

“When your CRM data is out of date, marketing targets the wrong contacts, accounts are assigned to the wrong territory, and salespeople waste valuable time,” said Jenny Cheng, chief product officer at InsideView. “We’re thrilled to announce the general availability of InsideView Refresh, the best way to update your CRM data to keep your lead-to-revenue operations working effectively.”

Pricing was not disclosed.

SalesLoft: Account Based Sales Development

A few months ago, I had not heard the term “Account Based Sales Development,” but it seems to have been rapidly adopted by several companies focused on tools for teams of sales development reps.  The term is an extension of the Account Based Marketing (ABM) methodology into the middle of the funnel.  Logically, the targeted focus of ABM programs, combined with predictive lead scoring, should be supported after opportunities are marketing qualified.  Thus, was born ABSD.

Traditional marketing is  volume based.  How many opportunities can we warm up?  How many are marketing qualified and forwarded onto sales?  But a volume approach lacks personalization.  It uses blast emails in a “spray and pray” approach to hit numerical targets.  The problem with this approach is that non-personalized emails are generally ignored.  While the approach might uncover a few more leads, it does so at the risk of tarnishing B2B brands, hurting email sender scores, and pushing low-yield opportunities down to your sales team (for them to ignore).

One of the most prominent advocates of ABSD is SalesLoft which built its Cadence product in support of ABSD:

SalesLoft defines Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD) as “a sales development approach in which prospective customer accounts are treated as markets of one, reached through hyper-personalized, targeted campaigns.” “Markets of one?” Sounds like a lot of effort for one prospective account. But it makes sense, considering the great shift in buying habits that’s been happening since the advent of the Internet. In order to become successful with ABSD, you need to deliver sincerity and personalization at scale. It’s a significant change in the way marketing supports sales, how sales supports the business and management’s expectations of activity and results from the revenue team.

Sincerity at scale sounds like an oxymoron, but the Cadence platform is designed for custom campaigns managed by the sales reps.  Thus, marketing can setup and tune the messaging and campaign steps, but sales reps may adjust prospect messaging during the campaign.  Hence “sincerity at scale.”

SalesLoft Cadence allows marketing to define campaigns which are managed by sales reps.

“While ABM’s best delivery tools are tools and technology platforms for content, ads and emails, the sales development rep (SDR) is the key in ABSD,” noted SalesLoft in an e-book.  “Sure, the SDR might have tools to help them do their job. But without personalized, sincere and professional communication, it doesn’t matter how good an SDR’s work ethic might be. They’ll fail in ABSD.”

To assist with personalization, SalesLoft launched its Sales Development Cloud earlier this month.  The partner hub provides company and contact content sets from DiscoverOrg, InsideView, Owler, RingLead, and Datanyze.  Other vendors provide advice on tone (Crystal personality profiles), customized email signatures (Sigstr), and conversational highlights (ExecVision).

One method for accomplishing such sincerity is switching the SDR focus from a single lead to an account.  This process reorientation allows the rep to leverage her research across many prospective buyers and influencers at an account instead of working a single opportunity thread.  Matt Amundson, the Senior Director of Sales Development at Everstring, described this shift on LinkedIn:

Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD) employs a similar strategy to hyper-personalization. The SDR still does high-level research on an organization, referencing an organization’s content released in blogs, social channels, and press releases.  The delta here is utilizing the same research across multiple prospects throughout an organization, instead of just one.  That means the same 20 minutes of research is infinitely more valuable and far more scalable.  A SDR focuses on the entire account by multi-threading, instead of just reaching out to a single lead.

For several years, ABM was an idea pushed by DemandBase at the very top of the funnel to identify anonymous individuals at targeted companies for programmatic campaigns.  The idea gained more traction as predictive analytics firms began to discuss ABM as part of their ideal profiles and scoring tools.  For them, ABM was a descriptor of the process of cherry picking the best opportunities within your funnel and finding net-new similar leads.  Thus, ABM became a method for strategic account targeting by the marketing department.  With ABSD, this focus on the best opportunities with targeted messaging has now worked its way to the middle of the funnel.

SalesLoft is not the only sales acceleration vendor discussing ABSD.  The term is also being propagated by QuotaFactory and KiteDesk.

Evolution of Sales Intelligence

Darwin's_finchesThe Sales Intelligence (SI) space has been undergoing some rapid change over the past year.  This evolution in functional scope and content sets has resulted in an expansion in the number of companies I cover as well as the categories (ABSD services, PE/VC funding databases).  There is also a movement of sales intelligence vendors into marketing intelligence as the traditional SIs look for additional revenue opportunities and a broader value proposition.

A year ago, Account Based Marketing (ABM) was discussed mostly by DemandBase, a top of the funnel programmatic marketing vendor, but the predictive analytics vendors and Zoominfo began discussing the methodology.  Thus, a year ago, ABM meant anti-ballistic missile or activity based management to all but the most well-versed marketers.  Now the term is commonly found in corporate blogs and collateral and has spawned ABSD (Account Based Software Development) which follows ABM down to the middle of the funnel in the sales development function.  There are now several ABSD vendors which I have begun to include in my newsletter including SalesLoft and QuotaFactory.  ABSD shifts the sales development focus away from “smile and dial” calling towards targeted messaging into a set of top prospects.  Since the prospecting activities are targeting higher value opportunities, there is a benefit to personalizing calls and emails.  SalesLoft refers to this activity as “sincerity at scale.”

What is even more impressive about SalesLoft and QuotaFactory is that they are both less than two years old and yet they have already grown in commercial stature to the point where they are building out partner ecosystems with traditional SIs and other vendors.  SalesLoft rolled out their Sales Development Cloud at their customer conference last month with nine partners including DiscoverOrg, InsideView, Datanyze, and Owler.  At the same time, QuotaFactory announced partnerships with Bedrock Data, Ambition, HG Data, and InsideView.

A second area of rapid growth is the technology sales intelligence vendors.  DiscoverOrg and RainKing have grown revenue and capabilities, transforming what was historically a sleepy niche into a significant sub-category.  Both vendors have posted high multi-year growth rates, internationalized their datasets, expanded their technology trigger events, and developed CRM and marketing automation connectors.  While they continue to gather rich profiles of IT execs, they are broadening their functional coverage to include non-IT functions that are significantly investing in IT cloud solutions such as marketing and finance.  DiscoverOrg is continuing this functional expansion with product management (the recently released TEDD dataset), HR, and Sales.  Furthermore, their databases, which once focused on the Fortune 1000, now cover nearly 50,000 top global companies and 700,000 executives.  Both firms announced significant funding events in the past six months.

Aberdeen Group, which was spun off of Harte-Hanks last year, has begun to invest in the AccessCI database.  Once the leading source of technology profiles and leads, the AccessCI (aka CiTDB and CITDS) dataset had received little investment from Harte-Hanks over the prior decade.  Under new ownership, the product is once again receiving management attention.

The SIs have also increased their coverage of technographicsAvention acquired SalesQuest two years ago and integrated their Crush profiles into their products while other vendors have licensed vendor/product data from HG Data or mined technographic intelligence.  HG Data has become so adept at collecting vendor/product data that DiscoverOrg and Aberdeen Group have begun licensing content from them.

Several firms that began as fundings databases found that Business Development was a logical extension of their value proposition and have since repositioned themselves as sales intelligence solutions.  Firms such as DataFox and Mattermark are focusing more on sales intelligence functionality while CB Insights has launched a sales intelligence solution (with technographics) while retaining its focus on the PE/VC space.

For the most part, the SIs have avoided the predictive analytics space.  The exceptions are Avention, which supports business signals and ideal profiles, and Radius which morphed  from an SMB SI into a predictive analytics company.  Meanwhile, the predictive analytics companies are beginning to offer a subset of SI features such as net-new leads.

Instead, the SIs have focused more on marketing analytics, data enrichment, and data hygiene which allows them to leverage their databases without investing in data scientists.  Dun & Bradstreet acquired NetProspex last year for its contact database and the Workbench cloud data hygiene platform.  They have also begun to offer Hoover’s concierge services including enrichment, segmentation reporting, and email delivery.  Avention launched its DataVision customer data platform earlier this year while Zoominfo,, and InsideView have placed equal weight upon marketing services and sales intelligence services.

Social Selling continues to be a core element of positioning for InsideView and LinkedIn Sales NavigatorArtesian Solutions, a UK vendor that is launching a US product later this year, also focuses on social selling.  A significant product gap across the SIs is the lack of social tools built into their offering.  I can understand why SIs have shied away from Who Knows Who tools (the exceptions are InsideView and DueDil), but it is perplexing why most SI vendors have only limited sets of social media links and little social media content displayed in their services.  Only InsideView, Artesian, and Owler have put much emphasis upon social media content.

Europe is also becoming a home of new services.  DueDil has evolved into a UK challenger to Avention and BvD Mint while IKO System and Sparklane (formerly Zebaz) have an established presence in France.

When I started my newsletter four years ago, many of the companies and products either had not been launched or weren’t on my radar.  I mostly focused on Avention, Hoover’s, InsideView, DiscoverOrg, BvD, Sales Genie,, and RainKing.  While these companies continue to innovate, much of the energy is coming from new entrants.  The rapid growth and diversity of sales intelligence functionality has been exciting to observe.

Credit: Darwin’s Finches are in the public domain.  Charles Darwin, 1845.

Still Not Convinced that Data Quality Is an Issue?


Integrate evaluated over 750,000 records from B2B companies and found consistent data problems whether the firm was and SMB, Enterprise, or Media Company. In each case, roughly 4 in 10 records contained inaccurate or bad information.
Integrate evaluated over 750,000 records from B2B companies and found consistent data problems whether the firm was an SMB, Enterprise, or Media Company. In each case, roughly four in ten records contained inaccurate or bad information.

While the primary theme of my blog is sales intelligence, you cannot have sales intelligence if your databases are rife with duplicate records, invalid emails, missing or incorrect firmographics, and non-standardized values.  These errors wreak havoc on marketing and sales.  I came across a 2016 Integrate report that had a series of quotes on the subject which addressed the impact of bad data quality across multiple marketing activities:

The issue of data quality continues to be one of the biggest roadblocks to effectively analyzing the prospect and customer journey. It also dramatically increases the costs of analytics projects and negatively impacts performance.
– Sameer Khan, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, IBM Customer Analytics

Dirty data is the silent killer of marketing campaigns. It makes you look bad, depresses the impact of great content and offers, and can put your brand, reputation and domain at risk (or worse).
– Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing

Data is the oil of any marketing engine, and in order to create perpetual demand generation, data accuracy needs to be a top priority. Marketers must be ruthless and deliberate about data quality and standardization at point of entry.
Jonathan Burg, Sr. Director, Marketing+Customer Acquisition, Apperian

And if you still aren’t convinced that data quality can choke your initiatives, their research found that 40% of B2B records have some form of data quality issue with duplicate data representing 15% of your marketing database.  Invalid Values and Ranges (10%) and Missing Fields (8%) were also common problems.

So if forty percent of your marketing data is faulty, then a significant percentage of your Marketing Qualified Leads passed to sales will contain errors including contacts not at companies (not evaluated by Integrate but contacts decay at a 25% rate per annum), and bad firmographics resulting in wasted time, incorrect routing,  inaccurate lead qualification, and poor messaging.  Furthermore, initiatives such as account based marketing (ABM), account based sales development (ABSD), and predictive analytics will stall if they are fueled by bad data.

Data Quality Isn’t Glamorous — Now Get over It

The Data Health Scan Report is one of the Optimized Customer Data Services.
A Data Quality report is an excellent way to start a data quality program.  It helps with sizing the problem and providing an initial remediation cost.

Unfortunately, data quality is a boring topic. No new CMO has ever joined a company and said, “First, let’s perform a merge/purge on our account and contact records, standardize the fields, and enrich the records.” (OK, I’m being hyperbolic, there may have been a few). No, they want a shiny new marketing automation platform, new branding, and an advertising campaign that gets the company noticed.

Sadly, there is little glory in improving your marketing database — unless, of course, you want to improve your lead nurturing, scoring, segmentation, routing, and sales ready lead quality.

Quality is generally seen as a cost center but it can just as easily be viewed as a cost saver. Bad quality erodes your marketing effectiveness, hurts your brand, kicks the knees out from under your nascent big data experiments, and demoralizes sales reps. A bad company or contact record is like a virus propagated from system to system raising the cost over time.

Furthermore, how can you think about predictive analytics when your databases are rife with bad, incomplete, and out of date records?

Bad data isn’t simply a mistyped address. It’s also:

  • Missing lead firmographics making it difficult to nurture, score, route, and qualify leads.
  • Invalid emails that hurt your deliverability scores and decrease the likelihood your messages will be delivered to inboxes instead of spam folders.
  • Junk fields on web forms because the individual didn’t want to fill out a dozen fields to read your whitepaper.
  • Large gaps in your segmentation analysis labeled UNKNOWN.
  • Hosting costs for storing out of date and duplicate data.
  • Leads with missing linkage that were held for nurture because the marketing automation system didn’t know the location was a subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company.
  • Poor marketing messaging and targeting that tell the recipient that you know nothing about their business, job function, industry, or company size.

Finally, bad lead quality incentivizes sales reps to ignore leads because marketing never seems to send the “Glengarry” leads. Instead, they become demoralized as they call invalid phone numbers or find that the contact “doesn’t work here anymore”.

Henry Schuck, CEO of DiscoverOrg, describes the situation well:

Sifting through crappy leads as a sales person is incredibly demoralizing. Their commission – which often translates into their ability to save for their family’s future, have disposable income or cover their mortgage and car payments – depends on them being able to close business. Their ability to close business, in turn, depends solely on their ability to find, set appointments with, and CLOSE new opportunities. If the leads provided by your company will not help them do that – how does that feel? They just moved companies to come work for you and their future is uncertain, at best.

So look at data quality holistically. Address it at the front end in your call centers and web forms and then enrich and maintain your database over time. As contact records decay at a 25% rate per annum you need to view data quality as an ongoing process, not simply an annual refresh (which is more than many companies even do).

So by flipping your perspective, it is easy to find myriad tangible benefits which justify the cost of data quality programs. It may not lead to glory, but by recognizing the distributed costs of bad data and then remediating them, you can generate significant ROI.

Photo Credit: Data Hygiene report from Dun & Bradstreet NetProspex Workbench